Oil Execs Grilled on Capitol Hill

April 2, 2008 12:00:00 AM PDT
While many Americans can barely afford gas, the five biggest oil companies raked in a record $123-billion dollars in profitsProtests can be seen on roads across America.

These men drive for a living. They say $4 dollar a gallon diesel is squeezing their families. It's also impacting Americans who see high prices at the grocery store.

But some lawmakers say they care. Executives of the top five oil companies were grilled on Capitol Hill for raking in $123-billion dollars in profit, when Americans are feeling the pain at the pump.

Oil executives defend their gains. They are lobbying for more tax breaks they say are necessary to re-invest in their businesses.

"And how much are you putting in?" asked Republican Edward Markey (D) Massachusetts.

"About a hundred million dollars," answered Stephen Simon with Exxon Mobile Corporation.

"A hundred million dollars," said Markey, "but you made $40 billion last year."

"Mr. Chairman, putting more money in doesn't equal more progress," said Simon.

The companies blame record fuel prices on more global demand and limited supply. One executive has advice for Americans. "When our costs are too high for Shell, we make choices about what not to do. And one choice that consumers could make is to drive less," said John Hofmeister with the Shell Oil Company.

Easier said than done, said protesting truck drivers. They depend on their trucks to survive. "I have a house, a good family, a good wife. But the thing is now I cannot even afford to pay my house," said truck driver Joel Salinas.

A gallon of regular unleaded is nearing $3.50 on average. The impact is being felt in the already shaky American auto industry, which has seen S.U.V. and truck sales drop almost 20% from a year ago.


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